"I have learned that people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
"Live as if your were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. You must learn to be still in the midst of activity and be vibrantly alive in repose."
The Center for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 110 children in the U.S have a form of autism spectrum disorder.
Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder characterized by impairments in communication, repetitive behavior and social interaction.
Symptoms generally start at the age of six months, and become established by age three. From there on, they continue uninterrupted through adulthood.
If you are a parent and you suspect your child has autism, or happen to know a family with someone with autism, you are probably wondering what you can do.
You might feel angry, confused or helpless. After all, you probably heard that autism is an incurable condition and you are hoping that your child's behavior is just a temporary phase.
Whether your child has autism or not, you can make a difference by knowing the early warning signs. Treatment is usually far more effective when the condition is caught early, ideally by the age of a year and half, so watching for early symptoms is crucial.
Appropriate medical care and knowledge can minimize the symptoms of autism and help your child grow and learn more like a normal child.
Treatment usually has the best results when the condition is caught early. Contact your pediatrician immediately if you notice any of these signs listed in the chart below.
|6 months:||Lack of warm expressions or smiles.|
|9 months:||Absence of sound imitation; no motivation to share smiles or basic emotional expressions or cries.|
|12 months:||Does not respond to name; absence of babbling; no playful gestures.|
|16 months||Does not speak or learn words like "Mom"or "Dad".|
|24 months:||Does not speak beyond meaningful two-worded phrases; Continuously imitates or repeats the same words.|
For a full diagnosis of Autistic Disorder to be made, there has to be a total of at least six symptoms from (1), (2), and (3):
Marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction.
Failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level.
A lacks of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest).
Delay in, or total lack of, the development of spoken language (not accompanied by an attempt to compensate through alternative modes of communication such as gesture or mime.
In individuals with adequate speech, marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others.
Stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language.
Lack of varied, spontaneous make-believe play or social imitative play appropriate to developmental level.
Encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus.
Apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals.
Stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements).
Persistent preoccupation with parts of objects.
The exact cause of autism is still a mystery, but past research has suggested several possible causes, including heredity, viral infections, and problems during child birth.
However, three new studies published in the journal Neuron found that spontaneous genetic mutations could be the cause of autistic disorder in families without a previous history of autism.
Scientists focused on a region of the human genome, known as 7q11.23, that when altered a certain way, it either produces an extra-social disorder known as Williams-Beuren disorder or Autism.
People with Williams-Beuren syndrome can be highly verbose and overly trusting, and have been known as having a “cocktail party” personality. These individuals also exhibit mild facial deformities, cardiac problems and are known to also have learning disabilities.
A third study found that larger mutations of this region are required to cause autistic disorder in girls. This last finding might explain why boys tend to be more affected by autism than girls.
Unfortunately, there is still no "smoking gun" treatment available.
As of now, there are several different treatment methods that have been proven to be effective for individuals with autism. These include:
Applied Behavior analysis (ABA): This process involves ways to support socially acceptable behavior and minimize disruptiveness.
Speech/language/social skills therapy: These type of therapies can help a child improve daily living functioning skills, such as engaging in a normal conversation.
Structured teaching: This includes addressing the child’s individual differences and educational needs.
Medication treatment: There no medications that can cure or treat autism, but they can help reduce the symptoms (e.g., anxiety, defiance, hyperactivity). Recent studies have shown that Risperdal might help children with autistic disorder.
Recently, the FDA approved Abilify (aripiprazole) for the treatment of irritability associated with autism.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures that all children with disabilities, including developmental disorders like autism, have the right to free public education and low-cost care. Under this law, a child with autism is eligible for low cost psychological services, behavioral treatment, medical evaluations, home visitations, physical therapy, and more.
If the child is under 10 years of age, they do not need a diagnosis of autistic disorder to receive free or low cost medical services.
There is no cure for autism. However, symptoms become less severe with age. Generally, children with IQs above 50 have a better prognosis for full independence than those with severe autism.
Overtime, with consistent treatment and social skills training, some individuals make significant progress in communication skills and are able to establish meaningful social relationships.
It's all going to be okay. You might have heard this before but don’t give up! Remember that life is full of challenges, and they affects us all the same way one way or another. Your child needs you and one day you will both sit down and laugh at all these memorable times. As tough as it seems now, things will get better.
Become an expert. This is your chance to learn and grow. The more you learn about autism the easier it will be for you and your child.
Join a support group. You will need plenty of support and advice from other parents who are going through the same situation. The more you learn from them, the more you will be able to help your child and other parents.
It's all a learning experience. Life would be quite a dull place if there were no challenges. Embrace this situation as a learning experience and an opportunity to learn amazing things from your child. Remember, all this could very well be a blessing in disguise.
Please visit the following links:
4340 East-West Hwy, Suite 350 Bethesda, Maryland 20814
US Autism & Asperger Association P.O. Box 532 Draper, UT 84020-0532
330 Broadway, Amitville, NY 11701
General Information Request: firstname.lastname@example.org
P.O. Box 188, Crosswicks, NJ 08515-0188
Contact: (212) 252-8584
Heart to Heart. Williams Syndrome Association
Autism Spectrum Disorders. Eunice Kennedy Shriver - National Institute of Child Health & Development
Autism Symptoms & Early Signs. Helpguide.org
Abrahams BS, Geschwind DH. Advances in autism genetics: on the threshold of a new neurobiology. Nat Rev Genet. 2008;9(5):341–55.
American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-IV. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
CDC Data "Autism Spectrum Disorders - Data & Statistics". Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Geschwind DH. Autism: many genes, common pathways? Cell. 2008;135(3):391–5.
Myers SM, Johnson CP, Council on Children with Disabilities. Management of children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics. 2007;120(5):1162–82
Newschaffer CJ, Croen LA, Daniels J et al. (2007). The epidemiology of autism spectrum disorders. Annu Rev Public Health. 28:235–58. doi:10.1146/annurev.publhealth.28.021406.14400
Article Updated: April 9, 2012
Article created: September 10, 2010